The official PASS Blog is where you’ll find the latest blog posts from PASS community members and the PASS Board. Contributors share their thoughts and discuss a wide variety of topics spanning PASS and the data community.

PASS and our Partners: A Growing Relationship

PASS has come a long way since its inception in 1999. The annual PASS Summit has provided the opportunity for members of the PASS community to connect, share, and learn, as the world of data has evolved and grown over the past 18 years. A key component of that growth has been the support of our part ...

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PASS Educational Offerings at Summit

PASS exists to help people Connect, Share and Learn. Our global community is unique in its willingness to support their peers of data professionals learn, not only technically, but to grow personally as well. PASS helps facilitate that through each of its educational channels - local PASS Chapters ...

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Insights into the PASS Summit Speaker Selection Process

Selecting the program for the PASS Summit is a complicated and lengthy process, one that requires a Program Committee of over 100 volunteers to work together to review abstracts, speakers, and session tracks. Starting immediately following the previous year’s Summit, this very committed and passionate group of individuals spends countless hours evaluating the previous year’s program before laying the groundwork for the following year.

This year, we have a Program Committee that includes three managers: Lance Harra, Senior Program Manager; and Angela Henry and Mindy Curnutt, Program Managers. The Program Committee included 28 volunteers representing our global regions (LATAM, EMEA, and APAC), with the balance coming from the United States. Over half the Program Committee members have experience selecting sessions for PASS Summit or other conferences.

The Program team has completed the process of selecting the sessions for the community slots for PASS Summit 2016. This year we received 840 abstracts from 255 speakers, for a possible 112 community sessions, 10 pre-conference sessions, and four lightning talks. As part of the sessions selected, 20% are first-time speakers at PASS Summit and 80% have spoken at least once in the past. The remaining sessions will include Microsoft sessions, vendor sessions, and 10 sessions that we will be selecting as part of the recently completed community survey.

The actual review process takes between eight and 10 weeks, following the close of the Call for Speakers. The initial process, led by Mindy, removes speaker names from session titles and abstracts. Review of abstracts is done without the reviewer knowing who made the submission. While the review of abstracts is underway, another group of volunteers rated the speakers, led by Ben DeBow.

The speaker review team uses the Speaker Profile provided and evaluates each speaker based on their history of speaking at events, and, as much as the data is available, on the evaluation scores of those previous events. The reviews are scored, and the speaker's overall score is then associated with the speaker's ID number. The abstracts are reviewed at least four times, so that no abstract either benefits or suffers from having been first or last on all readings by each team. The ratings are then averaged together and each abstract is then assigned its score.

Once this process is complete, the Speaker ID (not the name) for each session is given to the track team leads, and the teams are given the number of sessions in their track to be selected for Summit, and from that, the track team provides recommendations. Using the combined scores and the track team recommendations, the Program Managers and I selected the sessions for this year's Summit. We rely heavily on the recommendations from the abstract review team to make these decisions.

The Program Managers and I work to ensure that the overall program works together to deliver a balance of first-time speakers, established speakers, industry leaders, and thought leadership from Microsoft.  Creating a robust and competitive program ensures that PASS will continue to be the largest community conference that supports technical data professionals who leverage the Microsoft Data Platform.

Thanks for all of your support, and thank you to all of the volunteers on the Program committee, as well as my Program colleagues at PASS HQ, for all of your hard work to put this event together!

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

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Portfolio Update: PASS Programs


The first PASS Summit I attended was in Seattle in 2003. It was the first time I'd been to Seattle since I attended the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as an eight-year-old. It was the start of a significant change in my life, one for which I'm eternally grateful as I met people who were as passionate about data as I am.

I’d thought about a seat on the PASS Board of Directors over the years and always felt that I'd most be interested in the PASS Programs portfolio, because the content of Summit is what brings people together (at least initially). Once there, the connections made and the relationships formed provide meaningful value, but as in so many other aspects of life, content is king. Those are some of the reasons why I feel so passionate about this portfolio.

The program portfolio will deliver 160,970 technical training hours in 2016 and there are a number of activities that I will be overseeing throughout the year to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible program content.

This includes refining our current conference programming and better understanding attendee data to ensure that our program offerings will continue to meet the changing demands and needs of data professionals, now and into the future. This will also include reviewing the structure and format of Summit (e.g. number of pre-cons, lab offerings etc.) to ensure that we balance great content with financial considerations, and continue to uphold the quality of our events.

In addition, we will look to provide attendees with learning paths for their individual learning objectives, a way for them to define for themselves the direction they want to go with their learning and then also help to provide the content necessary to meet those goals.

A large part of continuing to deliver quality education and training is our speakers. I am proud of the fact that we are one of the only major technology conferences where we encourage the participation of new speakers. We will continue to grow our community speakers and help them to put their best foot forward for speaker selection with efforts like the abstract coaching service and speaker resources. 

All of this is designed to deliver the best possible training and development opportunities for all of you in 2016 and beyond.

If you have any ideas about improving our program offerings, please reach out in the comments below.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

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Professional Language in Abstract Submissions


The Call for Speakers (CFS) has closed and we are pleased to say that we had an enormous response from the community. The Programs Team now begins the challenging process of reviewing and selecting sessions.

Having said that, as you may now be aware, an inappropriate abstract submitted during the CFS was brought to our attention. I would like to take some time to briefly address this issue.

“Professional” was the first word in the original name of our organization, and in my mind, should be the first thought when anyone is working with or for PASS. That said, it’s disappointing that we had to remove this abstract because of unprofessional language.

This abstract has been removed from the submissions process and the speaker has been contacted. All speakers sign a speaker contract that does ensure appropriate behavior, and all participants in PASS Summit are expected to follow the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy.

Because the issues were discovered after the close of the CFS, we are unable to allow the submitter to modify the abstract, to provide a more professional description. We encourage everyone to make use of the Abstract Review process we’ve provided these last few years, to ensure that abstracts meet the standards we expect for all our sessions.

The Programs Team will be working with PASS Governance to introduce a formal policy and communication that will be included in the Speaker Contract and CFS site for all programs moving forward, to prevent this occurring again in the future.

We will continue to work together to provide quality, professional content for the events PASS manages. If you have questions or suggestions, I encourage you to email me.

For many of us, in fact probably for most of us, the PASS Summit has had a dramatic impact on our lives for the better. Help us continue to make that possible for others.

Thank you.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

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Clearing Up Miscommunication on Pre-Con Requirements


As Director of the Program Committee for PASS, I recognize that there has been some recent miscommunication surrounding the criteria for submitting a pre-conference session for consideration to this year’s PASS Summit.

As the Program Committee evaluated the requirements for both general and pre-conference sessions, we amended requirements for pre-con sessions to include both required and optional requirements. This was done to provide guidance for speakers on the level and skill necessary to host an all-day session for our data community. Ensuring that PASS is providing the highest level of content is very important to us, especially as attendees face an incredibly competitive choice of conferences to attend every year.

First, the prior optional requirement that a speaker presented a pre-con in the last two years at a selected group of events is now a requirement. We believe that PASS Summit is not the venue for you to attempt your first pre-con. Almost all SQLSaturdays offer pre-cons now, so there are plenty of opportunities to gain and develop that experience.

We also made it mandatory that you be willing to present a regular session in addition to a pre-con. This just makes sense, as we want speakers that are interested in presenting both community sessions and pre-cons.

Now, it was an oversight on our part that we left the nine remaining items with a requirement that you meet five of those requirements. Because we moved two from optional to required, we should have changed the required number to three, and we are currently making that change. We’re sorry for the unnecessary confusion that this caused within the community. The remaining optional requirements relate to your comfortableness in delivering pre-con-level content, as well as your credentials and knowledge of the Microsoft data platform and the types of pre-con content that members of the PASS community are interested in paying additional fees for.

I hope that you now have a better understanding of our rationale for the requirement changes, both optional and mandatory. If you have any questions about the pre-con speaker requirements, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

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